Holbrooke to travel to South Asia next week

January 30th, 2009 - 10:37 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanWashington, Jan 30 (IANS) With the Obama administration undertaking a review of US policy on Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, its new envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, will make his first trip to the region next week.Holbrooke will travel to South Asia after attending a security conference in Munich, Germany, acting State Department department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Thursday.

Although his schedule was not set, he was expected to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was unclear whether he would also travel to India, which has blamed Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Nov 26 terror attacks in Mumbai.

Wood said that Holbrooke will “touch base with various leaders in the region, and also to hear what they have to say in terms of what needs to be done to improve the situation.”

Asked if the new administration was getting pressurised by demands like the one made by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to halt US drone attacks against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters on Pakistani soil, Wood said:

“It’s understandable that governments in the region are looking to the new Administration.”

“The Administration hasn’t been in office very long, but we understand the world can’t wait, these issues can’t wait,” Wood said.

The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “has been engaged from day one, as well as the President and the Vice President, in trying to deal with these issues,” he said. “But clearly, this Administration has hit the ground running.

Clinton, he said is very active on these issues right now. “So I’m not surprised that you’re going to see these things coming from the region - from various parts of the world.”

Holbrooke’s trip to South Asia comes as the administration is undertaking a review of its policy toward Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama has called Afghanistan the “central front” in the war on terror and has promised to make fighting extremism there, and in neighbouring Pakistan, a foreign policy priority. He is expected to send as many as 30,000 additional US troops to battle Taliban forces.

However, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the same capacity under former president George Bush, told a Congressional hearing the US must set priorities in Afghanistan.

“If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose,” he said, “because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest.

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